Swim England

A nation swimming

‘Incredibly powerful and important’ Big School Swim provides lifelong memories

The Big School Swim is ‘an incredible celebration’ of school swimming and provides lifelong memories for schools and pupils across the nation.

The annual event aims to help schools and lesson providers reinforce the importance of school swimming and show how to make lessons fun and enjoyable.

This year, Swim England visited Clifton Primary School as they took part in the Big School Swim at the University of Birmingham swimming pool.

Also supporting on poolside was retired GB and Jamaica swimmer, Michael Gunning, who is a qualified swimming teacher and an early year’s specialist.

He explained that he loved interacting with everyone and being a part of the event.

Gunning said: “I’ve had such a good morning. I think it’s so nice to see all of the kids just having so much fun and enjoying swimming.

“Swimming is a sport but it’s also a life skill, so I’ve loved just interacting with everyone and just being part of it.

“We just need to be giving kids these opportunities to enjoy swimming but also to master that skill so that whenever they do go away on holiday or near rivers and lakes, they can swim.

“I’m extremely passionate about giving back to the sport. Swimming’s changed my life so the fact that I can see kids just enjoying swimming for what it is and ultimately just smashing all the different stereotypes out the way is great.

“Clifton Primary School have absolutely loved it today. They’ve been asking me questions and they’ve just really engaged.

“They loved it and they’re so good, some of them can swim so well, so we might see the next Olympian very soon.”

One teacher at Clifton Primary School, Julie Cook, explained some of the benefits of the Big School Swim.

She added:  “It’s been lovely [being part of the event]. I think the children have benefitted from having different people teach them, having somebody in the water with them and just seeing everything that’s going on here.

“Hopefully it will have inspired some of them and they’ll go home and talk to their parents about it – which is fabulous.

“School swimming is a life skill that you never lose however old you get. We’re surrounded by water – children need to be able to swim.”

A memory for those children

Children kicking feet in water at Big School Swim 2022

Swim England’s Water Safety and Drowning Prevention Manager, Ashley Jones, and the national governing body’s School Swimming and Water Safety Development Officer, Lorna Goldie, were in Birmingham with the swimmers.

They both explained the positive impact that the Big School Swim has and why schools and pupils should get involved.

Lorna, who has delivered school swimming lessons for more than 25 years, believes events such as this provides lifelong memories for the youngsters involved.

She said: “A positive event like the Big School Swim, it’s a memory for those children. They’ll probably remember today for the rest of their lives.

“To have hats, t-shirts, certificates, seeing Michael and being involved in such a huge event for these children, will have been absolutely amazing. The feedback from the children and the school staff was amazing, they all had a really amazing day.

“The Big School Swim is a promotion of school swimming, so it’s to get school swimming in head teachers, schools and parents minds to think about the importance of school swimming.

“Because some children might not access water any other time, other than during their school swimming lesson programme, so it’s really important that it is a priority subject.”

Ashley added: “It’s an incredible celebration of what is an amazing thing we have in school swimming on the national curriculum.

“We’re very fortunate that over 400,000 children a year are learning to swim at school.

“Around the country right now, there will be tens of thousands of young people in the water learning to swim, having fun and being healthy and that’s incredibly powerful and important for us, not only as a sport, but as a nation to keep up healthy.

“We’ve got to work together as an industry with government and with education to make sure that our young people are learning to swim, so they can carry on and have a healthy lifetime in aquatics.”